No fly, no problem: Air travel alternatives in the Philippines

Planes can sometimes be a messy affair. They’re darn expensive when you don’t book 10 years in advance, and they can leave you just like that if you’re not there when they’re ready to fly. But then they can hold you off for two hours or 24 hours at the slightest technical glitch. It’s an unfair world of flying, we know.


We’ve had our share of the sh*t too.

We’ve been left by a plane in Manila once (and had to fork out an arm and a leg for the next available flight).

We’ve been delayed in Davao for a full day, and we practically knelt in front of the guy at our airline’s counter in Coron to let us in on our flight back to Manila after arriving five minutes before departure.

Add to this the delays that are as normal as EDSA traffic on a payday, and you’d probably wonder why you can’t just zipline your way to Mindanao (we do, but on a much smaller scale: Baguio to Manila or maybe Ilocos).

Which is why we’re listing here some of the alternative means of transport to destinations frequently flown by air that we have experienced of late–because the more choices you have, the more possible that dream trip becomes. Besides, if Graham Hughes managed to visit all 201 countries in the world without flying, then we might as well start kayaking our way around our 7,107 islands (hey, that has been done too).

Of course, there are so many other means out there, but as we haven’t tried them yet, we cannot give you firsthand info. Hope the following can help you though with whatever you have in store for 2013!


Departing Batangas port for Caticlan in the evening

The ferry has long been there as a transport means, but they weren’t exactly designed with tourists in mind until recently. During a trip to Antique in June, I got on one of 2Go Travel‘s ferries in Batangas, which after about 10 hours in the open seas docked at Caticlan Jetty Port in Aklan. From here, Boracay island is just 15 minutes away, and Antique, Capiz, or Iloilo are easily accessible by bus.


  • Airfare to Caticlan is expensive all year round, and flights are prone to reroutes to Kalibo (remember Claudine Baretto? She went ballistic after her baggage was offloaded following the reroute of her Caticlan flight to Kalibo).
  • An airconditioned bunk bed (in a room for four that looks like your above average dorm) costs about P1,000, often cheaper. These rooms have their own bathroom, TV, locked cabinets for each occupant, and life vests of course.
  • You can book online (this is via 2Go Travel, which was what I have tried, but Montenegro Shipping Lines also departs from Batangas port)
  • There are common areas that are actually pleasant and well-maintained
  • The experience is something new, so it’s meant to be fun!

Travel with Airbnb

Who says ships look drab? This lounge says NO.


This is how one quadsharing room looks like. It has private bath, locked cabinets, a table & chair, and a MIRROR. LOL

  • The trip takes 9-12 hours (but you have a hotel by the sea, so how can you complain?)
  • From Metro Manila, it’s an additional two-hour bus ride to the Batangas port
  • Trips can be cancelled last minute due to unfavorable weather (but that’s not really something bad, is it?)
  • You can book your trip only as early as this month or the next. No such thing as 3 (or more) months in advance.

The air-conditioned dorm, which is cheaper than the room shown above. There are also cheaper bunks like this but are non-AC.


  • Get a group. AC rooms are quadsharing, so you might want to it share with people you know.
  • There are cheaper (and more expensive) sleeping arrangements (see links below for details)
  • There’s a cafeteria onboard (food is not bad; prices are reasonable. As if you have any other option).
  • Better to sail during the day for your mother’s peace of mind (although we sailed at night, which turned out good too, but still..)
  • Better to consider this an option when the seas are calmer (December to summer)

Arriving at Caticlan around 6 AM the next day after 10 hours on the sea. Boracay is that long thin island on the left.


Next page: Manila to Bicol by train